A Florida high school principal is being reassigned for telling a student’s mother that ‘not everyone believes the Holocaust happened’ and that he couldn’t confirm it was a ‘factual, historical event.’
The Palm Beach County school district said Monday that Spanish River High School Principal William Latson will be reassigned to a district job.
In a statement, the district said that while Latson has apologized, ‘his leadership has become a major distraction’.
The school district did not give details about Latson’s new job.
Officials said the incident began when a student’s mother sent an email to Latson in 2018 inquiring how the Holocaust was taught.
In his response, the principal remarked that he couldn’t ‘say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee’.
He added that not all students’ parents believe the Holocaust happened.
The emails are just now surfacing after The Palm Beach Post published the excerpts from the messages on Friday through a public records request.
The mother, who did not wish to be named, replied: ‘The Holocaust is a factual, historical event. It is not a right or a belief.’
However, the principal insisted: ‘Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened and you have your thoughts but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs so they will react differently.
‘My thoughts or beliefs have nothing to do with this because I am a public servant. I have the role to be politically neutral but support all groups in the school…’
Later, the principal explained that he is not a so-called Holocaust denier, rather that he views it as his place to remain neutral on all matters of politics.
Latson’s ill-considered response led the mother to launch a year-long effort to tackle what she called the school leader’s failure to separate truth from myth regarding the genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews under Germany’s Nazi regime.
Following their interaction, all 10th-grade English students are required to read ‘Night,’ a classic Holocaust memoir by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.
At the time, students were assigned to read only passages from the book, and the mother said that in her child’s class the readings hadn’t occurred.
This summer, Latson spent four days in Washington, DC, touring the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, a trip paid for by a nonprofit that promotes Holocaust awareness.
Latson said in a statement that his time in the museum served as ‘a poignant lesson and reminder of one of the most horrific events in human history’.
He also apologized for his remarks to the mother in a statement to the Post: ‘I regret that the verbiage that I used when responding to an email message from a parent, one year ago, did not accurately reflect my professional and personal commitment to educating all students about the atrocities of the Holocaust.
He said that in the apology that ‘it is critical that, as a society, we hold dear the memory of the victims and hold fast to our commitment to counter anti-Semitism’.
Spanish River High School is in Boca Raton, which is a community that has a large Jewish population.
The Holocaust is taught in ninth and 10th grades at the high school.
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